Morning Report: What is it Like to Sign Out of Mexico?

As mentioned a few days ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed international amateur free agents from many different countries. One of the more common countries is Mexico, but signing players from Mexico is very different from other countries. Today we take a look at the path taken to the pros by current DSL pitcher Armando Bustamante. He’s listed as Carlos Bustamante, but prefers the name Armando.

He originally signed with the Pirates in October, 2013, along with Mikell Granberry and Eumir Sepulveda. Of those three, Granberry has moved to the U.S. already and he’s currently in Extended Spring Training. Sepulveda was injured for most of last year and only returned during the last two weeks of the 2015 season. Along with Bustamante, he is healthy now and in Spring Training in the Dominican, getting ready for the season, which begins late next month.

We know when Bustamante signed with the Pirates, and also what he has been doing since. For those unfamiliar with him, he has pitched out of the bullpen the last two seasons and expects to assume that role again this year. The coaches there like his ability to pitch under pressure and fill any role out of the bullpen. He gets his fastball up to 90 MPH, and throws a sinker, a change, and his out pitch is a high-70’s slider.

Now we look into how he got to the Pirates and the part of the process that all players in Mexico go through to sign a pro deal.

Bustamante started in Little League and then played for a traveling team called the Nogales Roadrunners. That team actually played a lot in Arizona. He played international tournaments and traveled to Las Vegas, Louisiana, California and Florida. Back then he mostly played as a position player, either at third base or center field. He said he occasionally pitched, but more often than not he was a position player. Bustamante first started getting the notice of scouts when he was around 16 he said, and they first time the Pirates talked to him was about two years before he signed. He first met with current scout Jesus “Chino” Valdez, who was with the Pirates before this current front office took over in 2007.

When Bustamante was 16, Valdez told him that his future was as a pitcher. His basic sales pitch was that as a position player, he will have a career in Mexico. As a pitcher, he could make it to the Pirates.

Around that same time he talked to Valdez for the first time, Bustamante was drafted by Naranjeros de Hermosillo, a winter league team in Mexico. He was later traded to Aguilas de Mexicali (another winter league team) and he remains a member of that team to this day. Mikell Granberry is also with that team.

After Hermosillo drafted him, Jesus Valdez then signed Bustamante to Leones de Yucatan. If Bustamante were to play summer ball in Mexico after his career in U.S. pro ball is over, that would be the team he would play for, unless his rights were traded beforehand. Bustamante played for Yucatan for seven months before he signed with the Pirates.

He said the Pirates saw him 4-5 times before signing him. One of those times, Rene Gayo came to Hermosillo to see him pitch. After that, they sent him to the Dominican to see how he would do against more advanced hitters. After seeing him pitch the first time, Gayo told him that he would play for the Pirates someday.

That path players take in Mexico is what separates them from other countries. Bustamante needed to sign with a pro team before he signed with the Pirates. Granberry and Sepulveda were also signed to Yucatan before signing with the Pirates and all three players only received 25% of their signing bonus from the Pirates. That’s the same process that every player from Mexico goes through.

It seems unfair to the player that the team gets most of his bonus, but by doing that, he is able to play in Mexico once his pro career is over. It also allows him to play winter ball in Mexico. Without signing with teams in Mexico before he signs a pro deal, neither of those leagues are an option. Good players in Mexico make a decent living by playing summer and winter ball. If you think of it another way, the team in Mexico invests time and money in them before they sign a pro deal and then the players are being purchased from that team.

The Pirates have been connected to a few players out of Mexico this year, including a pair of highly regarded 15-year-old pitchers who won’t be able to sign until either July 2nd, or on their 16th birthday if they were born between July 2nd and September 1st. If either turns 16 after August 31st, they would need to wait until July 2, 2017 to sign. Whenever they sign though, they will go through the same process as every other player from Mexico.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 9-3 over the Brewers on Sunday. They have off today as the travel to San Diego for three games. Francisco Liriano will return to the mound on Tuesday.

In Indianapolis, it’s a big day with Jameson Taillon making his second start and Jung-ho Kang starting his rehab with the team. As of the last update on Thursday, Kang had already played two games of five innings each down in Extended Spring Training, with no restrictions. He likely extended that beyond five innings since Thursday, and may only have a brief stay with Indianapolis before returning to the Pirates. Rehab players USUALLY don’t play on the road or move down a level, so with Indianapolis going on a road trip after Wednesday’s game, Kang will likely rejoin the Pirates on Thursday, barring any setbacks of course.

Taillon is coming off his first regular season game in two years. He went six innings last Wednesday, giving up one run on five hits, with no walks and six strikeouts.

For Bradenton, Brandon Waddell will make his third start, looking to extend his shutout streak of 11 innings to start the season.

MLB: Pittsburgh (7-6) @ Padres (4-9) 10:10 PM 4/19
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (2.45 ERA, 9:13 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (4-4) vs Toledo (5-2) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (1.50 ERA, 0:6 BB/SO, 6.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (4-6) @ Harrisburg (4-5) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (4.91 ERA, 2:3 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (4-7) vs Lakeland (5-6) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (0.00 ERA, 1:7 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (9-2) vs Kannapolis (4-7) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Logan Sendelbach (1.86 ERA, 2:5 BB/SO, 9.2 IP)


Here is the ninth strikeout from Tyler Glasnow on Saturday night. He allowed one run over five innings and didn’t walk a single batter.


4/16: Trevor Williams placed on disabled list. Jhondaniel Medina promoted to Indianapolis.

4/15: John Kuchno promoted to Indianapolis. Frank Duncan added to Altoona roster.

4/14: Cory Luebke placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Rob Scahill.

4/14: Pirates sign Justin Masterson.

4/14: Chad Kuhl assigned to Indianapolis.

4/13: Michael Morse designated for assignment. Pirates select contract of A.J. Schugel.

4/13: Pedro Florimon sent outright to Indianapolis.

4/13: West Virginia places Cesilio Pimentel on disabled list. Eric Karch added to roster.

4/11: Pirates release John Holdzkom.

4/6: Tampa Bay Rays claim Jake Goebbert off waivers from Pirates.

4/2: Pirates designate Pedro Florimon, John Holdzkom and Jake Goebbert for assignment.

4/2: Pirates place Jung-ho Kang, Jared Hughes and Elias Diaz on the disabled list retroactive to March 25.

4/2: Pirates release Jose Batista and Jandy Vasquez.

4/1: Pirates release Gerardo Navarro, Christopher De Leon and Enyel Vallejo.


Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including pitcher/announcer Steve Blass. He won 103 games over ten seasons for the Pirates and was on the mound at the end of the 1971 World Series. Blass has been announcing for the Pirates since 1983. You can check the link for a detailed bio from his playing days.

Other Pirates born on this date are: catcher Angelo Encarnacion(1995-96), pitcher Larry Foss(1961), catcher Bob Linton(1929), pitcher Jack Scott(1916) and first baseman Jack Rothfuss(1897). Linton has an interesting footnote to his career. He spent the entire season with the Pirates in 1929 and never saw his name in the starting lineup. All 17 career games he played were off the bench. Scott was a pitcher, who played just one game for the Pirates and came into that game as a pinch-hitter before getting on the mound. Rothfuss hit .313 in a late-season trial for the Pirates in 1897 and had the starting first base job going into 1898, but a three-month illness cost him that spot and he never played in the majors again.

Two significant Opening Days have occurred on this date, both before the Pirates moved to the National League. In 1885, the Pirates(then called the Alleghenys) played their first game in April. Their first three seasons all started in May. The next year, the team played their one and only Opening Day doubleheader in franchise history. They lost both games to the St Louis Browns, who are now the St Louis Cardinals, not to be confused with the St Louis Browns team that played in the American League. That team is now the Baltimore Orioles and they actually started as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901.

  • Hey hey, Jay-Hay has finally come thru the last 2 games. This team is getting on base almost every inning. When this lineup starts hitting with more power, it’s gonna be scary.

    • Do I have to be the asshole to point out that Taylor Jungman is a back end starter and Zach Davies likely is not even big league pitcher? Losing a series to a shitty rebuilding club is obviously worse than winning one, as we’ve already seen, but I’m still having a hard time getting excited about beating up on minor leaguers when the goals are set so high.

      • You don’t have to be that asshole, but obviously you’re willing to be 😉

      • I don’t care how bad the team is, reaching base 24 times is impressive. Not to mention, the Bucs struggled against Jungman last year for whatever reason.

  • Taillon and Keller starts have me more excited than most of the big league games at this point.

    Also, anyone remember Huntington being as forceful and specific with comments regarding a prospect than he was with Glasnow and his complete lack of giving-a-shit that the org wants him throwing changeups? Either Huntington is going to blink, or this kid isn’t seeing Pittsburgh for a long time.

    • I think his problem is that he can get by with two pitches in the minors and put up crazy numbers, so he doesn’t see the need for it. The change isn’t good, it’s basically just a slow fastball for him that is either called a ball or hit, and sometimes the only damage he gives up comes off that pitch. Batters who can’t catch up to his fastball are hitting the change because he doesn’t have good separation.

      His thinking is probably, why throw the pitch that gives up the most damage when the other two work so well. The problem is that not many starters are successful with two pitches, so unless he becomes Dwight Gooden or Sandy Koufax, he will need a third pitch.

      Even in the AFL, Glasnow greatly exaggerated about how often he threw the pitch. He said he was using it 8-10 times a game and between the four games I either watched (two) or have PITCHf/x for, he threw 11 total. A fifth game was tracked on Baseball America and they had one change-up total

      • It might take getting kicked around in the majors?

        Let’s say he never develops a good change up? What is his ceiling then?

      • Oh, that’s *exactly* what I think the problem is. No more, no less. Kid is too competitive and immature to see the bigger picture, which can also be said for about 95% of the 22 yo male population. He’ll be far from the first to need figuratively kicked in the teeth by competition in order to change (no pun).

    • More i see/hear regarding Glasnow, the more i dont see it as near likely he sees time in PGH this entire year unless he truly just does a ton of work on that change over about 5-10 games at least. Throw that thing over 10 times a game and ignore the results of runs given up totally.

      NH is clearly as up front as he ever has been regarding where he feels that player is in his developmental readiness. Which is somewhat fair since the issue is a lack of a third pitch.

      • As much as I agree in principal and practice with the 3rd pitch thing, it ain’t like Glasnow will be the only kid this year, let alone ever, to lack one before promotion. If the kid is still putting up dominant numbers with two plus or better pitches and improved control/command, I think it’ll be damn near impossible for Huntington not to promote him. Unless somehow the rotation and pen are full of studs, this’ll be the battle to end all.

        • Fair point, i think if he did show improved consistency in about 8 more starts and the results were there it would be tough to deny the promotion.

          He could survive for half a year in a Wacha like way with two plus pitches so long as the control is good. Luckily for NH, he still needs to prove the control/command is there before we get to him being a must promotion.

          Because, right now, 80 some pitches through 5 innings is fine in AAA but makes me think he’d be struggling to get beyond 5 often against ML hitters.

          • This is such a tough one for me, because I do see both sides as legit arguments.

            On one hand, Glasnow’s two pitches and current command are better than this year’s Searage masterpeice, Jaun Nicasio – who also doesn’t have a changeup, or at least one that he should be throwing – and there are maaaaaany folks who think he’s now a legit starter.

            However, I’m not one of those people and think Nicasio won’t be better than a back end starter over the long run. I wouldn’t be surprised if Glasnow was more successful than that without the change, but definitely think there’s no place in the top of a rotation without it.

            The thing for me is, pragmatically speaking, Glasnow isn’t developing a 50 changeup this year. It’s not happening. The chances of the pitch being so bad that he simply won’t use it going to Major League average just because he’s forced to throw it ten times or whatever in games are incredibly small. If this is truly to be a barrier that he has to jump before promotion, the time to mandate usage was two years ago, not now.

            • I don’t think it has to be considered a 50 pitch, but there are always spots for it to keep it in a batter’s mind. Maybe some batter pulls a couple fastballs foul and then you can use it. There might be games where he doesn’t need it at all, but if he’s having trouble throwing the curve for strikes and batters are geared up for the fastball, it would be nice to break it out then so they can’t just look fastball. In AAA though, it should be mandatory ten times a game and not worry about the results.

              A better change-up will get him to the majors quicker than a better ERA.

              If I’m watching him from a fan standpoint, the most important thing I want to see in his next start is some 87’s and 88’s on the radar gun

              • I don’t necessarily disagree with your first paragraph, at all, but is that really a reason to keep him in the minors for an extended period? Is the line between, say mid-to-back end starter and TOR arm really just a show-me changeup?

                I don’t think so, and I’m not sure what the point would be in holding him back much longer unless it’s to make the change a legitimate addition.

                • I guess we will find out in mid-June if they actually keep him back. Right now, we all know he is being held back due to the super 2 deadline so he has at least ten more AAA starts left, and that’s even if he shows the change-up is usable. If they keep him down after June 10th when his spot comes up, then we will know it’s because they don’t think he’s ready.

                  Because that deadline is there regardless of performance, it’s tough to say at this point if it will hold him back.

                  I should add that he has had games where he’s used the change-up 8-10 times and it looked at least average, so we know it’s in him.

            • I disagree that he’s going to use the change enough in the majors.

              He’ll use it, but not enough to develop it at all and likely purely because he cant survive without it. They’ve been trying to get him to develop that change for at least an entire year and I truly think he doesnt see the need for it and thus isnt throwing it as often as is needed.

              He’s seeing results, and refining command on the 2 pitches that work. But thats not really what the point of the minors can be at times, and I think he does struggle to realize that crap numbers are fine so long as you are getting better in certain ways.

              He’s got enough to be a ML arm, and mayyyybe mid rotation. But his upside is far more than that and barring a massive need, Id stand firm as well if i was NH and I was looking at the kids game. I’ve got Taillon to cover innings at the Super 2 date, and as you alluded to Nicasio doesnt seem so hopeless to scrap.

              Tough spot, but while he isnt developing a 50 change he can take it from “not good” to “good enough” and thats a difference that can make his FB and CB play better. You pair 2 plus pitches with a finally “good enough for strikes” pitch by mid June or July and he’s capable of going on a run if the control sticks. Without the change, he can do it but i cant see him simply dominating.

              • I think you misunderstood me a bit:

                “I wouldn’t be surprised if Glasnow was more successful than that without the change, but definitely think there’s no place in the top of a rotation without it.”

                This would be the ceiling I’d put on Glasnow as a big leaguer, because I also wouldn’t give him much chance of learning the change at that level. Carlos Martinez did it just last year, of course, because Cardinals, but that would be a long shot for Glasnow, IMO.

                • Yeah my bad, I must have read over that or just mixed it up.

                  Id certainly be far less worried if he was only really dealing with a lack of forming that 3rd pitch. If the control looked solid with those two plus pitches, im fine and we’ll work that change to average level when it happens. But control+no 3rd pitch aint recipe for more than we’ve both alluded to as far as upside.

                  If Taillon could/is able to go this year by June and provide decent innings into late August, it’d be neat to let Glasnow develop a bit later into the year.

          • Also would be lying if I said that I didn’t selfishly want to see Glasnow live from about ten rows back on the 3rd base side of PNC tomorrow, if given the chance. If those two pitches don’t get you tingling you either aren’t a baseball nut or don’t know what you’re looking at. (you, general not you, specific)

  • Happy birthday to Steve Blass!